The 2017 World Series has come and gone and the Houston Astros are champions for the first time in their history! In a Fall Classic that seemed destined to swing in either the Astros’ or Los Angeles Dodgers’ favor from the get-go, fans instead got a hard-fought seven-game series that will go down in history as one of the best, perhaps even rivaling last year’s tilt between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians.
This series has been part of a trend of the past 25 years when several World Series matchups have etched their ways into the history books for more than just saying which team won over the other. Between the New York Yankees’ run in the late 1990s to the stunning back-and-forth nature of the 2014 matchup between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals, the last 25 years have seen quality baseball played in October to the delight of millions of fans.
That said, just so we can celebrate the end of baseball season for one more day, here are the top five World Series of the last 25 years.
1 Honorable Mention: 1997
The Cleveland Indians teams of the 1990s were always dominant, winning 100 games in 1995 before losing to the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. The 1997 team only won 86 games, but was still the arguably better squad on paper compared to the then-Florida Marlins, who had debuted in 1993 and rode a magical season to 92 wins and the NL Wild Card berth under the legendary Jim Leyland.
Cleveland outscored the Marlins 44-37 in the seven-game series, but made the mistake of severely underestimating this plucky squad. Moises Alou's three-run shot off of Orel Hershiser in Game 1 was the perfect precursor to Florida scoring seven runs in the ninth inning of Game 3's 14-11 win at what was then called Jacobs Field.
The series was very much back-and-forth en route to the decisive Game 7, when Indians closer Jose Mesa blew the save when Craig Counsell's sacrifice fly scored Moises Alou from third with one out in the ninth. Fast forward to the bottom of the eleventh inning, and it was Counsell who would score on Edgar Renteria's comebacker that went off of Charles Nagy's glove and into center field, giving the Marlins the 3-2 victory and the championship.
It's funny how quickly most fans seem to forget this series because for one expected to be quick work on Cleveland's end, it certainly turned into a classic.
2 5. 2014
The 2014 World Series is an excellent World Series in that when the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants were slated to play one another, the seven games that followed made for a pleasant surprise. Adding to the mystique of the series was that two Wild Card teams were facing off, making the underdog mentality real on both sides.
In one of the grittiest World Series in recent memory, San Francisco rode a dominant outing from ace Madison Bumgarner en route to an easy Game 1 victory, but KC answered right back with a 7-2 win in Game 2 before taking a hard-fought 3-2 win in Game 3.
San Francisco then came back from a 4-1 deficit to win an 11-4 blowout in Game 4, followed by a Bumgarner shutout in Game 5 that sent the Giants back to Kansas City with a 3-2 series lead.
Momentum then swung back in the Royals' favor when the team scored seven runs in the second inning and Yordano Ventura tossed seven strong innings in a 10-0 win, forcing Game 7.
Though San Francisco sent veteran Tim Hudson to the mound and Kansas City Jeremy Guthrie, neither lasted long as Hudson exited in the second inning and Guthrie in the fourth. Both teams traded two runs apiece in the second inning, but the Giants took the lead in the fourth after Pablo Sandoval scored on an RBI single by Michael Morse. Bumgarner then took the ball in the fifth inning and held that lead despite a late Royals rally and pitching on just two days' rest, picking up both the old school save and the World Series MVP trophy.
In a word, wow. San Francisco only outscored Kansas City 30-27 as the series shifted back and forth to one that looked to be all about dominant pitching versus depth, to one all about offense, to one about which team wanted it more. Make no mistake, though only three years ago, this World Series is one of the best in the last 25 years.
3 4. 2017
Just how the 2014 World Series was great because of the different ways momentum shifted between teams, the 2017 World Series was great because of how momentum seemed to go out the window entirely. The Los Angeles Dodgers met the Houston Astros in a true battle of depth vs heart and heart won out in the end.
LA took Game 1 at Dodger Stadium in a 3-1 battle, but Game 2 proved the series would be anything but ordinary. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen blew the save in the ninth inning when Marwin Gonzalez's home run tied the game, and both teams traded two runs each in the tenth inning before eventual World Series MVP George Springer hit a two-run blast in the 11th that gave Houston the lead for good.
The series then shifted back to Houston as Yu Darvish was chased early in Houston's 5-3 win in Game 3, but the Dodgers scored five runs in the ninth inning of Game 4 to tie the series. Game 5 was an offensive juggernaut that saw the Astros trail 4-0 before tying the game, then they trailed 7-4 before tying the game once again. The Dodgers then led 8-7 before even more lead changes and it was finally Alex Bregman's RBI single in the tenth that gave the Astros the 13-12 win and 3-2 series lead.
LA headed back to Dodger Stadium and won Game 6 3-1, but Darvish was chased early again in Game 7 as momentum was not once a factor in this series. It was entirely unpredictable. Would Los Angeles win its first title since 1988, or would Houston take home its first ever championship?
The result proved that regardless of which team a fan supports, the magic of the game itself was to be appreciated 100 percent.
4 3. 2001
Given how the Arizona Diamondbacks outscored the New York Yankees 37-14 in the series, one would be shocked that it went the full seven games. Arizona dominated the Yankees in Games 1 and 2 on the backs of dominant outings from eventual co-World Series MVPs Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, but the series was only just beginning as the scene shifted back to New York.
In Game 3, Roger Clemens out-dueled Brian Anderson in a tight 2-1 victory that opened with President George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch. Arizona took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 4, but Tino Martinez drilled a two-run shot to tie the game. The clock struck midnight and then brought in November baseball, capitalized by Derek Jeter's walkoff solo home run in the 10th to tie the series 2-2.
The Diamondbacks then led 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth of Game 5, but Kim blew yet another save courtesy of Scott Brosius' two-out game-tying two-run home run. Brosius then scored the game-winning run in the 12th on Alfonso Soriano's RBI single, and it looked like New York would win its fourth consecutive World Series title in the aftermath of the city's devastation following the September 11 attacks.
Arizona had other ideas. After a 15-2 blowout win in Game 6, the team sent Schilling to the mound on three day's rest in Game 7. The Diamondbacks got on the board first on Danny Bautista's RBI double in the sixth inning, and the Yankees countered that with Tino Martinez's RBI single in the seventh. New York then took the lead on Alfonso Soriano's solo shot in the eighth, and closer Mariano Rivera struck out the side in the bottom half.
It all unraveled as a combination of errors and defensive mistakes led to Arizona tying the game on Tony Womack's double in the bottom of the ninth and after Craig Counsell being hit by a pitch loaded the bases, Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez took advantage of an infield drawn in with a bloop single to left that scored the winning run from third.
This series was great not because of the finish that saw Arizona win a championship in just its fourth year of existence, but because both teams played each game as though their lives depended on bringing home the gold. Years later, Gonzalez's huge grin as he touches first base has gone down in history as one of the game's most iconic images.
5 2. 2011
There is so much to like about the 2011 World Series played between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers. Texas was in its second straight Fall Classic after falling to the Giants the year before and was stacked from top to bottom, and St. Louis had a perfect mix of stars and youngsters in a series that was chock full of excellent moments.
After both teams traded one-run wins at Busch Stadium, the series shifted to Arlington before the real magic happened. In Game 3, Albert Pujols had five hits and joined Hall of Fame players Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as one of the few to have three home runs in a single World Series game. Texas then took the next two games to head back to St. Louis with a chance to win it all in Game 6.
Texas had a 7-5 lead entering the ninth inning, but closer Neftali Feliz was not at his best. After allowing a one-out double to Pujols followed by a walk to Lance Berkman, Feliz got Allen Craig to strike out as third baseman David Freese came to bat. Freese would launch a triple over the head of right fielder Nelson Cruz to tie the game, but Texas added two runs in the tenth on a Josh Hamilton home run. St. Louis then tied the game once again after an RBI groundout by Ryan Theriot and RBI single by Berkman. Freese came to bat in the 11th and forced Game 7 with a walkoff solo shot.
Game 7 was all St. Louis as both teams traded two runs in the first inning, but the Cardinals were just the better team in a 6-2 victory. Between Freese's clutch hits, St. Louis' deep pitching staff and a potentially decisive game that kept throwing fans for a loop, it's important to remember the 2011 Fall Classic as the one that kick-started the recent trend of excellent World Series.
6 1. 2016
The 2016 World Series is the best World Series of the last 25 years not just because of its quality over seven games, but because of what was at stake during it. The Cleveland Indians were looking to win their first championship since 1948 while the Chicago Cubs were in search of their first in over a century.
Both teams scored exactly 27 runs and refused to bend to the other's will from start to finish, trading the first two games in Cleveland before the Indians stole two at Wrigley Field to take a 3-1 series lead before Chicago eked out a 3-2 win in Game 5 and a 9-3 win in Game 6 to force Game 7, and what happened next was the best World Series game of the best World Series of the last 25 years.
Dexter Fowler led the game off with a solo home run off of Indians ace Corey Kluber and though the Indians tied the game on Carlos Santana's RBI single in the third inning, Chicago would add runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth in spite of Cleveland's never-say-die attitude and entered the bottom of the eighth with a 6-3 lead. Unfortunately, an exhausted Aroldis Chapman would surrender an RBI double to Brandon Guyer before allowing Rajai Davis to tie the game 6-6 with a two-run shot.
A short rain delay followed a scoreless ninth inning, but the Cubs were not done yet. Kyle Schwarber, who missed all but two games of the regular season with a serious knee injury, led off with a single and Albert Almora came on to pinch run. Almora then advanced to second base on Kris Bryant's deep flyout to center field and scored two batters later on Ben Zobrist's RBI double. Chicago would add another run and though Davis would make the score 8-7 with a two-out RBI single, Mike Montgomery got Michael Martinez to ground out to Bryant to end the game and end the drought.
Quality games aside, this series was great because it was impossible to root against either team regardless of one's usual allegiance, be it to the New York Yankees or the San Diego Padres. No matter who won, a team's long overdue wish for a World Series win would come true and any baseball fan worth their weight in gold could appreciate that. Both teams being made up largely of homegrown talent was just the icing on the cake.
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